On June 9th, 2007, Saturday, a friend of mine, Ryan, and I attended the Church of the Apostles in Seattle, Washington. The pastor of that church, a woman named Karen Ward, had been in email contact with me for a week or two. I told her I was doing research, planned on attending her church, and wanted to know if I could talk to her about a few issues: the emerging church movement, women pastors, and doctrine. In her emails, she said she did not want to address women pastors, but said she would be open to discussing other topics.
We finally arrived at the church about an hour early after a rather harrowing interweaving through the cryptic streets of Seattle. Ryan and I finally found the old Lutheran Church (ELCA) where Church of the Apostles meets on Saturdays at 5 pm.1
Inside was a comfortable arrangement of chairs and couches. There were candles lit here and there and occasionally we would hear the greetings and musings of people as they entered. We met a young woman named Sky. She was articulate and very polite. She introduced herself and I told her I was there to do research and had some questions. She smiled and volunteered to answer a few of them. We talked about the church, how long it had been there, etc. But I was more interested in doctrine so I asked if she knew about the Trinity and the deity of Christ. She affirmed both and articulated the doctrines properly. She said you could lose your salvation, that baptism was not necessary for salvation, and that "you meet God where you're at and worship him your way." The last statement wasn't as crisp as I would like. We need to worship God according to the prescriptions found in his word.
My discussion with Karen Ward
Finally, after a while, Karen Ward appeared from the back of the church. She greeted the people who were milling about and after a few minutes she came over and introduced herself. She was warm and polite. When I introduced myself she remembered who I was and our conversation began. It didn't go well.2
I told her that the Bible does not tell us in every detail how we are to reach various cultures. Therefore we are free to use candles, microphones, guitars, couches, etc., as long as our practice and preaching don't violate Scripture. I further told her that I was interested in the doctrinal orthodoxy of emerging churches and that I hoped I could ask her some basic questions. She smiled and said go ahead.
I fired away. I asked her what the Trinity was. After a contemplative look, Karen Ward told me that the Trinity was "one person in three persona." Of course, that is not an adequate response -- especially from someone who is supposed to be a pastor (female or not). I politely told her that the Trinity was one God in three persons and quickly dropped it. I didn't want to come on too strong. Strike one.
When I asked her if Jesus was a man now, she said no. Of course, he is a man right now, (1 Tim. 2:5; Col. 2:9) and I mentioned that he was. Strike two.
She affirmed the physical resurrection of Christ, but added: "It's okay if you don't want to believe it." I glanced over to Ryan, who had suddenly stiffened, and then back to Karen. This was rather shocking since the physical resurrection of Christ is one of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith (John 2:19-21; Luke 24:39; 1 Cor. 15:14) and it is absolutely not okay if someone doesn't want to believe it. Ignorance is one thing; denial is another. Strike three.
So, I politely told her that it was an essential doctrine taught in the Bible and that you can't be a Christian if you openly deny it. She said that "The Church gave us the Bible and the Bible was written by men." I'm sure she saw my eyebrows shoot up at this point since that is a typical comment given by people who don't believe in the inspiration of Scripture.3 I told her that the church didn't give us the Bible. The Church recognized the inspired word of God, that the Bible tells us what is and is not essential in Christianity, and the physical resurrection was not an optional belief. I told her a person could not be a Christian if he denied it. Karen said, "The self-righteous won't inherit the kingdom of God." She then turned away and walked off. Ouch.
Karen Ward failed to properly address the basics of the Christian faith. She failed to defend her position adequately. She failed to properly represent biblical truth. Is she qualified to be a pastor (women pastor issue aside)? No. Is she dangerous spiritually? Yes.
The Church Service
There was nothing unbiblical about the church service that I could see. There was Scripture reading, a man read a short illustrative story from the pulpit, and a guest student preacher from a local seminary gave the message. I spoke with him afterwards and explained what I was doing. He graciously offered to answer questions. I was pleased to discover that he knew his doctrine well. I couldn't help but wonder what he was doing there.
I would like to comment that there was a young woman leading worship and she was exceptionally talented. I forgot her name, but God had obviously gifted her. People responded to the service well. They were polite, full of smiles, and very helpful. In short, there's nothing to complain of the service as far as style goes.
Would I recommend the Church of the Apostles?
No, I would not recommend Church of the Apostles for two reasons. First, the Bible denies that women can be pastors. The pastor is an elder (1 Tim. 5:17). The elder is to be male (Titus 1:5-6) and a woman is not to be in authority over men in the church because Adam was created first, (1 Tim. 2:12-13). This is a creation mandate, not an issue of culture. This is how God has set up the church structure. Therefore, a woman cannot fulfill this role. She cannot be the husband of one wife and she is not to have authority over men, in the church.4
- 1. I was told, but didn't fully understand, that the Church of the Apostles was working in an ELCA and Episcopalian joint effort. Of course, this was a warning flag for me because both the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America) and the Episcopalian Church are extremely liberal.
- 2. I was not there to crucify anyone doctrinally. I only wanted to gather information.
- 3. I am not saying she did or didn't affirm the Bible's inspiration. It was merely my reaction.
- 4. I am aware there is controversy on this topic of women pastors. See my articles The Elder in the Church and Should Women Be Pastors and Elders?[/fn]
Second, Karen apparently was unaware of the essentials of the Christian faith. If she wants to tell me, and others, that it's okay if someone doesn't want to believe in the physical resurrection of Christ, then I am forced to question whether or not she is even a Christian since she misses so critical a Christian doctrine. I know, these are strong words. But strong words need to accompany strong heresy. Perhaps she is saved and is also incredibly ignorant, I don't know. But the fact is the Scriptures clearly tell us that you cannot deny the physical resurrection of Christ and be a Christian (John 2:19-21; Luke 24:39; 1 Cor. 15:14). A pastor should know this and no Christian pastor should ever say that it is okay not to believe and/or deny Christ's physical resurrection. If this is her position, what else is she teaching the congregation? I cringe to think about it. I strongly recommend people stay away from Church of the Apostles as Karen Ward does not properly articulate and uphold the basics of the Christian faith.